GOP gains momentum on tax cuts

GOP gains momentum on tax cuts
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans have significant momentum ahead of a possible vote this week on tax legislation following a meeting of their caucus with President Trump.

Trump has made clear he’s willing to deal with senators on their individual demands, and his offerings paid quick dividends Tuesday.

Within an hour of the Trump meeting, the Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the tax bill on a party-line vote.

Two Republicans who just a day prior had threatened to vote against the measure, Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (Wis.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (Tenn.), voted in favor of it.

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Separately, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (Maine), long seen as the Republican most likely to vote against the tax bill, suggested that she could be won over after Trump voiced support for two bills, including a measure sponsored by her, that are meant to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets.

Passage of those measures could persuade Collins, who is worried the tax bill’s inclusion of language eliminating ObamaCare’s insurance mandate could raise premiums.

“[Trump] said that he understood the need to have something to offset the premium increases and appeared very open” to signing the two bills into law, she said after a separate meeting with Trump.

Collins said her optimism on the bill is growing because of the feedback she’s received about her concerns on health care and other issues.

“I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be given the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor on these areas,” she said after the lunch. 

Collins also made it clear that GOP leaders and members of the Senate Finance Committee are focused on winning her over.

“I think they’re eager to help me get to yes,” a smiling Collins told reporters.

The positive signals bode well for GOP hopes to pass the bill on the Senate floor by the end of the week.

“I think it’s going to pass,” said Trump, who called the meeting “outstanding.”

Republicans can afford just two defections if all Democrats vote against the bill, but it appeared Tuesday they were nearing their goal.

Corker and other deficit hawks — such as Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Ballooning Fed balance sheet sparks GOP concerns  The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Lauren Underwood says Americans face economic crisis if Senate fails to act on unemployment benefits extension; US surpasses 4 million cases, 1,000+ deaths for third straight day MORE (R-Okla.) — have been concerned that the bill could blow a hole in the deficit. They have been pushing for the bill to include a “backstop” in the event that the tax cuts don’t generate as much economic growth as predicted by Republicans.

Corker on Tuesday said he and leadership have an “outline of an agreement” on a trigger provision that could allow tax rates to rise if budget projections are missed.

“I think we’ve got a commitment that puts us in a pretty good place,” he told reporters.

Johnson, along with Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project MORE (R-Mont.), has expressed concerns that the bill provides more of a benefit to corporations than pass-through businesses, which are taxed through the individual code. On Monday, Johnson threatened to vote against the bill in the Budget Committee if a fix wasn’t reached before the vote.

The Wisconsin Republican ended up voting for the bill in committee, telling reporters shortly before the vote that he’s seeing progress.

Daines also was confidant that concerns on pass-through businesses would be dealt with.

“I think we made a lot of progress today and I’m optimistic that we’re going to see a good outcome there,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

Collins also said she received positive feedback about including a property tax deduction of up to $10,000 in the bill. The House tax bill includes such a property tax deduction but the Senate bill does not.

“That’s a really important provision for a lot of middle-income families,” she said.

Collins said Trump would support her amendment on the property tax deduction.

Despite the progress, Republicans still have more work to do before the bill passes the Senate. They have to address lawmakers’ concerns without having the bill’s cost exceed $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

“It’s a challenging exercise,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) said. “Think of sitting there with a Rubik’s Cube, trying to get to 50. We do have a few members who have concerns, and we’re trying to address them. And we know we will not be able to go forward until we’re able to get 50 people satisfied and that’s what we’re working on.”

At least one manager’s amendment is expected to be offered by GOP leaders, and individual lawmakers are also expected to offer their own amendments on the floor.

Once Senate Republicans pass their bill, they still have to reconcile it with the measure the House passed earlier this month.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money: Five takeaways from the July jobs report Stimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday maintained that lawmakers would resolve the differences between the two bills in a conference committee, rather than the House taking up a Senate-passed bill. Among the bills’ differences is that the House bill has four individual tax brackets while the Senate bill has seven.

“Certainly there is a lot of common ground here,” he said. “But the chambers have taken different approaches in areas such as pass-throughs, on the individual rate brackets, for example, in deductions issues. And we certainly have a lot of work together with the Senate to do on the international side of this. And so for as much common ground as we have, there are some areas where we’re taking different approaches. That will be worked out — can only be worked out — in a conference committee.”

Nathaniel Weixel, Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos contributed.